Losses in our lives happen in many ways, and my greatest loss happened while I was trying to get to somewhere else that wasn’t on my agenda, or at least not in print. It happened in a way I won’t forget: a walk downstairs to find an altered life. A note on the dinner table telling me where his body was. That was the part of the promise he did keep.
We write scripts for our lives, and when they are interrupted the jolt can be confusing and difficult to understand. While we’re making our way along the road, the demons interrupt our peaceful walk and give us the boot off our carefully manicured path into something more like sludge, mess, and unexpected confusion.
At first, we panic, and then we try to extricate ourselves from this place, only to find ourselves pulled further into the mess of the sludge. When we realize that we can best exit the sludge by remaining calm, relaxing, and working with it, we’re free to embrace it. We can then deal with the mess in this new place. We figure out that the best method for getting free from where we are now trapped is exploring it for alternative exit options. That is how most grief and loss journeys begin: a surrender to the unknown.
I got out of the immediate sludge state and realized that there was a mountain in front of me, and that I needed to go through it to reach the place I needed to get to. That was both a relief and rather terrorizing.
With the unwanted interruption to our lives, we forget where we were headed, focusing on the path before us that has become cluttered with boulders, fallen trees, and strange critters that inhabit the once pristine path we thought we were on, and realizing that we’ve been transported to a much different place altogether. Where are we? What is this about, and will it be a help or hindrance?
No, we’re not in Oz or anyplace like it, though a part of us may wish for ruby slippers that we can click to take us magically back to before we wound up wherever this is now. We don’t get the slippers. Instead, we receive a walking stick that will come in handy in turning over the rocks, giving us leverage to lift the heavy trees that block our route, and in testing the strange new critters to see if they are friend or foe.
It’s taken several minutes to construct this, and yet the descent into this place happens instantly. We’re just not aware that within seconds of hearing they’re dead, “I’m leaving you,” “I’m moving out to pursue…,” or whatever the loss is, we’re sent by our mind into this place. As we grapple with it in those first few moments, we realize that our control is gone. Will we ever be the same? Will our world ever feel the same?
The Answer Everyone Wants
In this place we ask: When will it end? And when will things return to normal? The honest answer that we eventually discover is that we’ll develop a new normal, discover a new life path, and renegotiate what our personal universe looks like and what it is filled with. We forget about the old somewhere that had held us captive and begin searching for a new somewhere else. The catch to this search is that things no longer work the way they once did. The topsy-turvy has flung us into the unknown. All we can do is thrash around until we find something to grab onto that feels stable.
We start to learn that the tears, the missing, and the uncertainty will fade over time, and in their place the texture and quality of what is present in our lives changes. Slowly, we stop asking when and start focusing on the how to of this new place. This leads us to finding a support system, a new village of people that is populated with those who will become our new friends. They understand where we are! They’ve been in the sludge, gotten out, and faced their own mountain. They’ve dismissed some old village residents due to the fact that they left the village or are not able to attend to the needs in the village at this time. We find a therapist who speaks our language and we seek out spiritual direction, or stumble into another path altogether. As we gain strength and our concentration returns, we begin reading books and are able to question and act on those questions.
This new place of discovery is exciting, scary, and wide open. Oh, the options that we can explore! Slowly, the places we were headed fade away, and we’re left only with new things to discover.
You know how people say that we’ve changed? We have! If we do the work of grief, loss, and pain well enough, we reinvent ourselves. There are old things, new things, and a bunch of creation waiting to spring forth. It can all be good. In the meantime, the question we wanted answered disappears as we become involved in the process of creating new life within ourselves. New life and meaning are unique to each of us.
The tears and the missing are still present. They’ve taken on a new form and texture. For me, it was somewhere in my year three that I noticed the real change. How did this happen? It wasn’t about time; it was processing and a world view change. It is something we experience and understand due to the work we do around our grief, loss, and pain, effecting change deep within.
Noticing the Gift
For some people, the loss and the grief that are encountered become a gift. What? How can this be? I’ll admit that on August 29, 2016, if you had told me I’d be typing these words in 2021, I’d have had said something to the effect of “You’re nuts!” I’m typing this and I know I’m not nuts. Telling someone at the beginning of the process that change will happen is counterproductive to the process. There are some “please do’s” and “please don’ts” that are essential to observe.
Relationships can trap us, cause us to shortchange ourselves, or make us second-guess what we want in our lives—to name just a few of the things that can happen. The fact that she cheated on you and didn’t want to work it out is sad. After the heartache passes, a new discovery of freedom comes.
He or she is now gone; the love you once had will always remain, and now you are asking new questions. You want something different from before, and finding it is a good thing. You haven’t changed; you’ve grown! You are beginning to trust your own knowing, and this is an essential component of finding the new place of existence.
The gift of the tragedy is not pleasant. We are called to understanding through the unveiling of new options that we truly have choices if look and access them in the present. It is what we find buried in the rubble that was once sitting out in the open, waiting for us to discover it for the first time.
We couldn’t see it where we were because our understanding of our lives was focused on the life we had then. We weren’t stumbling along the path, attempting to find the new points of entrance into the new place that we need to get to.
I know some who have needed to step into employment for the first time in their lives and now report feeling fulfillment in a way they never have before. I know others who took the chance of a new career. Somehow, the lack of security allowed them to risk big! For others, it is doing the same thing with fresh new insight into the things they value most. For me, it resulted in several things. My favorite is that I returned to school for a certificate in spiritual direction. I love the program! Would I have discovered this had I not been widowed? NO! It took me moving to a new place and finding a new path to walk to do what I’m doing now.
Along the way, we employ new navigation strategies, discover our “rose rooms,” and come to an understanding that the interruption that occurred on the way to somewhere else, while tragic, has become a touchstone in our lives.